Gymnastics: Tweddle misses medal amid age controversy





Beth Tweddle, the finest gymnast Britain has ever had, is far too nice ever to moan about an unfair result. But here today, in the uneven bars final, the 23-year-old former world champion from Cheshire was, quite frankly, robbed of a medal.



The larceny had nothing to do with a scores fiasco, although the final had one. China's He Kexin and America's Nastia Luikin finished tied with scores of 16.725 but He took the gold via a convoluted tie-breaker analysis that even the sport's world governing body, the FIG, said afterwards was wrong.

Another Chinese girl, Yang Yilin was third, and Tweddle was fourth, and herein lies the injustice. The best evidence strongly suggests that He is too young to be competing. And if the tiny local heroine had not been here, Tweddle might well have taken bronze, or better. Yang's age is also disputed.

The controversy over He has been bubbling for a couple of months since the Chinese named her in their team for the Games. Her age, which had previously been given by several official Chinese sources as 14, suddenly became 16, which meets the requirement that competitors must be 16 in the year of the Games.

Two official Chinese gymnastic websites " now blocked" previously gave He's birth date as 1994, making her 14 this year. The China Daily, the government newspaper, profiled her earlier this year and said she was 14. And most compelling of all was a speech in November 2007 when a Chinese official, Liu Peng, introduced He as 13.

Yet when the New York Times recently presented this evidence to Chinese Olympic officials, the paper was shown He's passport, issued in February 2008. Her date of birth is given as 1 January 1992. The International Olympic Committee will not investigate, saying the FIG is responsible for age verification. The FIG says a passport is proof of age. And that, unfortunately for Tweddle, is that.

The Briton, older by five years than the next youngest finalist, was unwilling to be drawn on the subject last night, saying only: "I can only do what I do and not worry about the rest." Luikin, 18, made similar noises saying: "I don't know how old she is but I do know that she gave a performance that merited her medal."

The Independent tried to speak to He in the "mix zone" and ask her age but she was quickly ushered away. Standing close up, three feet away from her at most, she does not even look 14, let alone 16. When The Independent tried to take a photograph, three mix zone officials blocked the view, briefly tried to take the camera, and then hurried He away.

There were no quibbles from Tweddle about her mark of 16.625. "Obviously I'm gutted but last Sunday I didn't think I'd even be competing [because of a rib injury] so I'm pleased just to make the final." Her mark would have been better, almost certainly good enough for a podium place, but for a messy dismount.

Prior to that, she had performed a splendid routine which was technically the most difficult of the eight on show. It elicited the loudest gasps of appreciation from a knowledgeable crowd.

"The dismount probably did cost me my place [on the podium]," she said. "My dismount is normally not a problem but I just didn't get enough height and to be honest I thought I was going to end up on my face."

On the gold fiasco, the FIG president, Bruno Grandi, said it was "not correct" to use tie-breakers, and that two golds should have been awarded.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific